Councils vote on Lancashire authority bid

Councillors - including at Blackpool Town Hall pictured - have been voting on proposals for a Lancashire Combined Authority

Councillors - including at Blackpool Town Hall pictured - have been voting on proposals for a Lancashire Combined Authority

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Authorities on the Fylde coast are split over moves to create a combined authority for Lancashire.

Blackpool Council has voted to move ahead with the proposals and will go out to formal consultation in the new year, but Wyre Council has voted not to take part in further talks.

Fylde Council is due to vote on Monday, while Lancashire County Council will debate the issue next Thursday.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “Combined authorities are the Government’s chosen vehicle for devolving powers to the regions.

“Such devolution is long overdue, therefore we should seize the opportunity, and enter into a period of constructive dialogue with ministers and civil servants, to explore how best we can solve some of the lon-standing issues Blackpool and Lancashire face.

“I know that some areas have concerns about this, and I will continue to work with and support those areas, to try and keep them on board, and demonstrate the value of being sat around the negotiating table.”

But Wyre Council leader Coun Peter Gibson said there were too many uncertainties to enable to council to move ahead with the proposals.

He said: “Wyre Council took it to full council last week and voted not to be part of it.

“The reasons are that no benefits or costs have been identified.

“The Government is quite clear that if we want a combined authority we have to have an elected mayor for Lancashire and I understand most leaders in Lancashire don’t want an elected mayor.

“They seem to have brushed it under the carpet and think we can have a chairman instead who is voted in every year.”

All 15 councils in Lancashire are holding votes during November and December. Five have already signed up, with Wyre being the only exception so far.

Fylde Council leader Coun Sue Fazackerley said: “The Government is looking to give local areas more power which we can use on strategic-level matters such as housing, transport and skills, areas of expertise which can be done better by councils working together.

“Fylde Council will continue with the same role. What will change, if a combined authority is adopted, is each district council will send a delegate to the new combined body to speak up on these strategic-level areas of policy.”

Lancashire County Council leader Coun Jennifer Mein said: “We know from talks with central government that creating a combined authority is their preferred way of devolving power and funding to a local level.

“I am absolutely convinced that Lancashire’s leaders are best placed to make the important decisions that will benefit everyone in the county.”